Young and old buy into idea of pink, blue and purple-black lai see
Forget the old image of lai see, or red envelopes with greeting messages in front and a banknote inside. Modern lai see can be in gold, pink and even blue.
At the Ie Yue Hong printing company in Tsim Sha Tsui, more than 100 lai see packet designs are on show. Among the typically red and gold envelopes, a series of alternatively coloured packets have intrigued customers: they are pink, light blue, ivory and even myrtle - close to black.
'It was a risk to launch this series of colourful packets,' said Michael Wu, owner of the company and designer of the packets. 'It turns out that they are popular.'
In Chinese culture, red is considered lucky and gold represents fortune while black, like white, is often associated with sad occasions such as funerals.
'A lot of trendy ladies bought the [alternatively coloured] lai see envelopes, but surprisingly, elderly people accepted the idea, too,' Mr Wu said, referring to the myrtle-coloured envelopes.
He said buying fancy lai see packets was fashionable. 'Instead of using envelopes given by shopping malls, people are willing to spend money for something different. It makes you happy when you give away packets that look different from others.' He said though the cost of making lai see envelopes had increased 8 per cent due to the rising yuan, 'a higher price did not affect the sales'.
This year, a pack of 100 lai see packets slightly bigger than a HK$10 note folded in half is typically priced at HK$80, but bigger ones which can carry a HK$500 note cost more. Packets with thicker paper cost HK$2.
Shopping malls are catching up. Times Square has been giving away envelopes with paper carps and glittering scraps displayed between transparent plastic film and Harbour City has been offering packets in different colours.
Pretty packets may gratify recipients, but Consumer Power project co-ordinator Betty Lee warned that the gilding included metal which harmed the environment during production.
'Besides, trees are chopped down for new paper and chlorine is used to bleach it,' Ms Lee said. 'These procedures introduce greenhouse gases and other pollutants like dioxin and chloroform into the air.'